Comparing the 2014 Patriots to the 2004 Super Bowl Champion Patriots
Nearly 10 years ago, the New England Patriots last completed their yearly journey toward the Lombardi Trophy. Tom Brady hoisted the hardware after playoff victories over the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.
A decade later, most of the players who received a ring are gone. Brady and Vince Wilfork—a rookie in 2004—are the only players that remain. On the coaching side of the spectrum, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia still lead the team, while Josh McDaniels and Brian Daboll are on their second stints with New England.
Let's take a look at how the two teams compare. The results are a bit surprising—the teams stack up very evenly.
2014 Projected Contributors: Tom Brady
2004 Key Contributors: Tom Brady
While backups have come and gone, the starting quarterback has stayed the same. Tom Brady's physical skills have peaked—and then possibly started to decline—since 2004, but his mental acumen has progressed each year since.
If you could somehow put 2014 Brady's mind in 2004 Brady's body, it would be the best of both worlds—also known as 2007 Brady.
Add in two promising youngsters backing up Brady—Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo—and the decision is clear.
2014 Projected Contributors: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James Develin
2004 Key Contributors: Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass
Clock-killin' Corey Dillon was a behemoth for the New England Patriots. With a powerful running style similar to Stevan Ridley, Dillon was able to amass 1,635 yards in 2004. Dillon's five fumbles are also reminiscent of Ridley.
Kevin Faulk wasn't used as much as Shane Vereen is today, but he was just as effective. Like James Develin, Patrick Pass did a lot of dirty work as a blocker and on special teams.
Dillon's overpowering effort and Faulk's consistency give the 2004 group a slight edge.
2014 Projected Contributors: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman
2004 Key Contributors: Deion Branch, David Patten, Troy Brown
Fans of the New England Patriots who are forever concerned that Tom Brady doesn't have enough weapons to win a Super Bowl need only look at this 2004 group to see that it doesn't take Hall of Fame-caliber players to win.
With the exception of Dobson, all of the receivers here have shown to be consistent contributors who made the most of their opportunities within the Patriots system. Dobson could very well get there, but he is just going into his second year.
Tom Brady doesn't need Calvin Johnson. He showed that in 2004. If this trio of receivers can stay healthy in 2014, they'll be good enough.
2014 Projected Contributors: Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui
2004 Key Contributors: Christian Fauria, Daniel Graham
You could add any number of tight ends from 2000 to 2009 and you won't match what a healthy Rob Gronkowski can give you. His ability to dominate as both a pass-catcher and run-blocker makes the New England Patriots offense so hard to defend.
The depth in 2014 isn't great, however. Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham had good seasons and were capable blockers and receivers. Each would be welcome on this year's squad.
Unless Gronkowski can't go in 2014, this is a clear win for the present-day Patriots.
2014 Projected Contributors: Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Bryan Stork/Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer
2004 Key Contributors: Matt Light, Joe Andruzzi, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Brandon Gorin
Each offensive line listed here would be considered well above average. Light, Koppen and Neal all made it to Pro Bowls, while the current line for the New England Patriots is the stoutest part of their offense.
Gorin in 2004 and the Wendell/Stork combination in 2014 stick out, though, when looking at the other names. It only takes one lineman to get beat to have a good play get blown up. The 2004 Patriots survived; it remains to be seen whether the interior offensive line will cause problems for New England again this season.
2014 Projected Contributors: Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Chandler Jones
2004 Key Contributors: Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green
While the 2014 defensive line looks great on paper and has the potential for dominance if everyone stays healthy, the 2004 squad was a proven commodity.
Wilfork wrecked things inside, leaving Green to shoot gaps when inserted. Seymour and Warren held the point of attack at the 5-technique positions and could get after the passer if they needed to. The quartet—and trio at times—held blockers up and let their linebackers do the work.
If everything goes according to plan, Easley's presence and a rejuvenated Wilfork could bring the Patriots' defensive line back to their glory days. That said, doing it is much harder than writing it.
2014 Projected Contributors: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, James Anderson
2004 Key Contributors: Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Rosevelt Colvin, Roman Phifer
Bruschi is already in the New England Patriots Hall of Fame. Vrabel and McGinest should be joining him soon. Bruschi's leadership, passion and knack for making the big play complemented McGinest and Vrabel's versatility, consistency and explosiveness.
Colvin—still recovering from injury—and Phifer knew their roles and performed them exceptionally.
In 2014, you have three potential Patriots Hall of Fame players as well. Mayo is coming off of an injury but is looking to get back to being the rock in the middle of the Patriots defense. Hightower and Collins got to have bigger roles in 2013 than they expected, but they ended up equal to the task.
Anderson should be the next man in after the starting three and will be asked to shore up any problems with coverage.
In another year, this may be a push. Right now, the 2014 group has some work to do.
2014 Projected Contributors: Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon
2004 Key Contributors: Rodney Harrison, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, Randall Gay
This is where the 2014 team catches up. Rodney Harrison and Asante Samuel were in their prime, but the loss of Ty Law and Tyrone Poole to injured reserve was big. Eugene Wilson and Randall Gay performed well when it counted, but their success was short-lived in the NFL.
The 2014 group, however, is incredibly deep. While we haven't seem them play together, they could be the best secondary in the NFL on paper.
Revis' presence gives defensive coordinator Matt Patricia a lot of options in deploying his assets. Ryan—along with fellow cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Brandon Browner—can be given more safety help. Blitzes can be that much more exotic.
The 2004 defense might have an advantage in the front seven, but the 2014 defense more than makes up for it with their overpowering secondary.
2014 Projected Contributors: Stephen Gostkowski, Danny Aiken, Ryan Allen
2004 Key Contributors: Adam Vinatieri, Lonie Paxton, Josh Miller
It is tough to argue against the dynamic duo of Vinatieri and Paxton, who combined for multiple franchise-changing kicks. However—to the sure chagrin of many a New England Patriots fan—Gostkowski has been the better kicker.
Gostkowski sits at an 86 percent accuracy rate, while Vinatieri lags slightly behind at 83 percent. Gostkowski's bigger leg also has accounted for more touchbacks. While the kickoff line has changed, you can still compare the eras. The Patriots ranked 16th in the league on touchback ratio in 2004, while they were third in 2014.
Miller and Allen represent two of the better punters—along with Zoltan Mesko—that the Patriots have employed under Bill Belichick.
They don't have a defining clutch moment in their repertoire yet, but this 2014 group is every bit as good as 2004's.